Former LPGA Tour Player Materne Leads
Former LPGA Tour player Nicole Materne of Spokane, Wash., fired a 5-under-par 67 to take the first-round lead. One shot back and tied for second are rookie Jan Dowling of Bradford, Ontario, and third-year Futures Tour veteran Kalen Anderson of Edina, Minn. Four players are tied for third at 69 (-3) including amateur Aree Song, formerly Wongluekiet, of Bradenton, Fla.
Materne, who teed off at 9:20 A.M., got her round going with an 18-foot birdie putt on the first hole. She followed with three others on four, seven and drained a 25-foot putt for birdie on eight, turning at 32 (-4). Materne continued her strong play on the par-5 514-yard 10th hole, two-putting from 20 feet for birdie. Her only blemish of the day was a bogey on 14, but she finished strong with her sixth birdie on 18.
'I felt great out there today,' stated Materne, who finished 10th on the 2002 Futures Tour Money List and earned an automatic bid to last years LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. 'I had a few errant shots, but overall, the round went smoothly. I took three months off this winter and coming back I feel completely refreshed and enthusiastic.'
Materne is playing in her first Futures Tour tournament since mid-July. After finishing second at the Lincoln Futures Golf Classic in Avon, Conn., Materne broke her hand in an incident unrelated to golf. At the time of her injury, she was ninth on the Tours money list with $24,999. With four tournaments left on the schedule, there was plenty opportunity for other players to steal her position in the top-10.
'Right after I broke my hand, I kept a really close eye on the money list,' mentioned Materne. 'I did some traveling with my family and was able to get my mind off of it, but it was still very hard. I was so happy when I found out that I stayed in the top-10, but I was not sure how my hand was going to be for LPGA Q-School.'
Three weeks prior to attending the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, Materne began practicing after weeks of rest.
Materne continued, 'My hand was still not healed and trying to swing the club was very painful. I just wanted to prepare myself to try to play well and get through the tournament. I was not about to miss the opportunity.'
With only two nine-hole practice rounds under her belt, Materne traveled to Q-school and missed the 54-hole cut with a three-round total of 223 (+5). Two weeks later, the doctor declared her fully healed. She played in one more tournament before taking three months off to ski, relax, and spend time with family. In February, the 29-year-old Futures Tour veteran began practicing for the upcoming season.
'I was completely immobile for 10 weeks with my injury and I was concern that my hand would never be the same,' said Materne, who recorded six top-10 finishes in 14 events last season. 'Once the doctor told me that I was fully healed, it was a complete relief. Now Im back and ready to play.'
Dowling, playing in her first official professional tournament, recorded six birdies, including four on the front nine, and two bogeys for her 68 (-4) performance. Anderson, who played in the afternoon, birdied one, three, five, seven, 10, 15, and bogeyed eight and 16.
'I was hitting the ball really well today,' said Dowling, winner of the 2000 Canadian Womens Amateur Championship. 'I spent the entire winter in Dallas working on my swing which has helped me get more distance and control on my shots. I was able to finish strong with birdies on 17 and 18. My goal is to come out each day and put myself in a position to win. This was a good start.'
Song, who was the 2001 and 2002 Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament co-medalist, had two birdies, one bogey, and an eagle on the par-5 493-yard fifth hole. Using a 3-iron, Songs second shot from 234 yards landed 25 feet from the cup and she made the putt.
Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET
Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.
“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.
She wondered if there would be resentment.
She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”
PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.
Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.
She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.
Fans have been stopping her for autographs.
“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.
He waved Lincicome over.
“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”
Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.
“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.
Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.
Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.
“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.
Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.
Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.
Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.
What are Lincicome’s expectations?
She would love to make the cut, but . . .
“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.
“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”
Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.
Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.
As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.
“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”
Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.
The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.
“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.
Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.
She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.
It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.
Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.
"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”
Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.
Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.
“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”
Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.
“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”
The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.
“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”